Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day- Completed the planting!

Today I finished the planting and got the rest of the wood chips for the garden.  I am all done now.  Just need to let everything grow.  I received my Burpee order yesterday after three days shipping.  My tomatoes were not happy when I took them out.  They were weak and sad looking.  I watered them and left them in the sun.  Hopefully they'll bounce back soon.  I also got two of my sweet peppers.  My mom got my jalapenos and one more sweet pepper from the garden center. 

So here's what I've got planted in each square:

Two squares are empty.  I am planting cilantro later in the summer.  It matures quickly, and I want to harvest it before it goes to seed.  I hope to be able to harvest it the same time I harvest everything else for salsa. 

I may put something else in the other empty square, or else just plant two squares of cilantro. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

2nd Weekend of May part 2- planting!

I wasn't planning on doing anything to the garden today, let alone plant.  I thought it was still too early, but I went to my mom's for Mother's Day and she and Dad planted everything this morning except peppers and tomatoes.  There's no frost in the 10-day forecast and the farmers are planting.  So while our average last frost date is May 20, I decided to go home and plant this evening.  I don't have everything yet, but I did have carrot and cucumber seeds, and my Opalka tomato from Jung.  We also went to the Garden Center today (kind of a mother's day tradition).  So I bought my herbs for the herb garden and four basil plants, and decided I'd go home and plant them.  I was racing the rain, though.  The sky turned overcast and kept getting darker as the storm got closer.  I really wanted to get everything in before the rain. 

I was able to beat the rain, and Gavin helped me plant the basil and cucumbers.  I did the carrots since the seeds were so small.  I planted two squares of carrots, 16 per square, and two squares of cucumbers, two plants per square.  I planted two seeds per hole, though, in case one of the seeds doesn't germinate.  I can thin them later. 

I dedicated four squares to Basil because I want to make and freeze a lot of pesto.  Mackenzie loves it, Gavin tolerates it, so we're making it. 

I planted my Opalka tomato.  It turns out that there were four seedlings in that little tray, so I only planted one.  I hope it makes it.  It's so little.  It's supposed to be a good indeterminate paste tomato, but also flavorful for eating.

I also bought a "Minibel" tomato, which is only supposed to grow about 12".  The plants were already 12" and flowering, so hopefully I get some good results from that.  It's more of a fun little experiment, really.  New tomato introduced this year, so I want to try it.  Fun concept for someone who can only container garden.  The tomatoes are supposed to be cherry tomatoes, not sweet.  I don't know what kind of production we'll get out of it.  I moved it and the potatoes inside the fence of the garden.

And finally, I bought my herbs for the herb garden.  The only concern I have is whether there's enough sun in front of the house.  That's the west side of the house, so that bed doesn't get sun until the sun comes over the house.  I had chives from last year that survived the winter in a container and my mom brought me some of her oregano.  I also planted lavender, rosemary, lemon verbena, curly parsley, and lemon thyme.

I may mulch around these plants.  Not all of them will survive the winter (most won't) so I'll have to replant next year.  But if I mulch around here it'll be more visually appealing.  Haven't decided yet.  maybe some decorative rocks or something.  So, a quite productive weekend all in all. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2nd weekend of May- Fence gate and more wood chips

Today I had two goals:  I wanted to get the fence gate done and I wanted to get the rest of the wood chips laid down in my garden.  We accomplished the fence gate, but still need about a wheelbarrow's worth of wood chips.  Mike and Gavin went to the compost site and got more, but just not quite enough.  Gavin insisted on being the only one to scrape the wood chips from the back of the truck bed to the middle where I could reach them with the rake.  Took a little longer, but how can I say no to his desire to do some manual labor?  When we were done, he took a broom to the truck bed to get all the rest of it out.  He was a good little helper today.

I don't think I'm going to be able to get the rest of the wood chips next Saturday because we're going up to Green Bay for my marathon, and Mike has a drill weekend, so he won't be home.  Sounds like it'll have to wait for Memorial Day weekend, which is also when I plan to plant. 

The garden is doing well.  I've been watering, and it seems like the peas grow a little each day.  Most of the seeds germinated.  A few of the radishes didn't, but I'll plant more of them when I harvest this first batch.

So the fence gate was an interesting task because we didn't really know exactly how to make it or install it with the metal fence posts we have in the garden.  But what we ended up with will work, while maybe not the prettiest gate ever made.  It has character, which makes it unique, so therefore I like it.  We used some of the 1x2 cedar boards I bought for the trellis.  Turns out I don't need as much wood for the trellis, so I had extra.  When we put the diagonal cross piece in, it ended up skewing the sides a little, so we ended up with a door that was not quite square.  Add that to the not-quite-straight fence posts, and we have some gap.

We hammered 3/4" staples to attach the fencing to the frame. 

We attached a piece of the 1x2 cedar board to a metal fence post that had holes in it with 1/4" bolts.  We attached the door to the cedar board with two hinges.

We put another metal fence post in where the gate would latch, but it was one of the old ones, and didn't have the holes.  We were also out of the cedar boards, so we were having a hard time figuring out how to latch the door.  Mike cut down some pines last year and had some branches on the wood pile, so we took a longer one about 3 inches in diameter and used that.  We attached it to the post with wire.  There was no using bolts this time since we didn't have any holes in the post. 

We used an eyebolt latch to hook the gate to the pine branch.  Not the prettiest, but again, it works. 

So now we have a gate, and yes, it's crooked.  But like I said, it adds character.  It might not be as noticeable when I get the wood chips and fill in under the gate. 

Then again, maybe it will still be noticeable.  But at least we have a functioning gate with a nice little rustic appeal.  It's definitely unique.  No one else will have one like it!

In other news, I got my order from Jung today.  I ordered an Opalka tomato, an indeterminate paste tomato, and a Sweet Baby Girl tomato, a cherry tomato for Gavin.  What I received was an Opalka and a Super Heavyweight pepper. 

So I'm hoping that they will send me my Sweet Baby Girl tomato when I get a hold of someone there.  If the Jung order shipped, it must mean my Burpee order will ship soon, too.  I have several tomatoes and peppers coming from Burpee.  My biggest challenge in the next two weeks is keeping these little seedlings alive before planting time. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

First weekend of May- Wood chips and fencing

This weekend, I didn't plan to do much with the garden, but we ended up doing more than I thought we would, so I'm pretty happy about what we accomplished.  It's still too early to plant, but we have a woodchuck or two or three in our yard, and last year he got into my garden despite our best efforts to block and trap it.  (We kept catching these two baby raccoons.)

Getting the fence up was a priority for me, especially because we went and got a load of wood chips on Saturday, and I needed the fence to be up before I could get all the wood chips situated the way I want. 

The LaGrange township has a composting site, and while I had never seen it, I read an article where some high school kids did some volunteer work on trails nearby a few years ago using wood chips donated from the LaGrange composting site.  So I was really hoping I'd find wood chips there because then I wouldn't have to buy them.  They are only open on Saturdays from 10-3, so we went, me thinking we were just going to see if they had them, but Mike with the idea that we were going to bring a load home (which I didn't realize until we got there).  They had a huge hill of wood chips, so I was really excited and we brought a truck bed load home, me thinking we'd need to make several trips and would probably not finish it this weekend due to the need to finish other errands and of course, we had put the fence up first.

So we came home and unloaded the wood chips, and we had more than I thought we did.  I won't need another full load to finish up around the beds. 

We didn't accomplish anything more on Saturday because of all the rest of the errands we had to run, but on Sunday, we decided to put the fence posts up.  Our friend Chris was coming over to help put up some dry wall, and while we waiting, I thought maybe we could get the fence posts up.  That wouldn't take long.  We were just finishing up when Chris arrived, so we decided that while we were out there, we'd take advantage of Chris' help and get the fence put up.  It didn't take too long.  It's not as pretty as I'm going to want it long term, but it will get the job done this season.  Maybe if I expand in the next year or two to three or even four beds, then I can put up a more permanent fence with wood posts and a gate.  We are going to put a gate in this year, but we haven't quite figured out how to make it yet and attach it to the fence posts.  Currently the fence is just hooked to itself.

You can see we didn't get one of those posts straight.  But that will be remedied when we put up the permanent fence.  It's okay for now.  The wood chips will extend a foot past the fence, so I won't have any grass growing up along the fence that I have to trim.  I'm going to put mulch (or maybe use wood chips, they are free after all) around the big tree stump to the right of the garden and create a little flower bed or something there.  I'm going to cut out a bowl in the top of the stump and put some potting soil in there to make a planter.  Maybe put some geraniums and ivy in it.  It'll be pretty.  I'm also going to put mulch or wood chips under the bushes to the left of the garden so that I can avoid mowing at all in that corner.  But that's another task for another day.

Oh, and my peas finally sprouted yesterday.  It took two weeks, and we've been checking every day, but yesterday we had two up.  My radishes, which were only supposed to take 4-6 days to germinate are not up yet and it's been 8 days.  I think last week's cool, rainy, overcast weather slowed things down.  We hadn't seen the sun for almost a week!  This weekend we had two sunny days, not really all that warm, but at least the sun was out.  Hopefully we'll see more seeds germinate this week.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Growing potatoes in a 5-gallon bucket

This year, with the square foot garden, I told the kids they could each pick a square to plant whatever they wanted.  Gavin wanted corn (so we're planting four squares because let's be honest, one square of corn?) and Mackenzie wanted to plant potatoes.  We've never tried planting potatoes before and as I researched it, I kind of came to the conclusion that a square foot garden, while it was possible, really wasn't the right place to plant potatoes.  I saw so many websites about planting potatoes in buckets or pails, and I thought it sounded pretty easy.  So we decided to plant potatoes in buckets.  My mom even got on board.  As she started researching planting potatoes in buckets, she read some article that said we had to use "food grade" buckets.  I'd never heard about "food grade" buckets, but my mom found some at Menards, and I found some at Lowe's, so we are planting in 5-gallon "food grade" buckets.
We went to the Burlington Garden Center and they had a large selection of seed potatoes.  We didn't really do any research before choosing the variety of potatoes, but we did pick a russet, a red and a yellow.  First we had to drill holes in the bottom of the buckets for drainage. 

I put about four inches of soil in the bucket and then placed two seed potatoes, and covered them with about another inch of soil.  I used regular potting soil. 

So now they're planted.  After the potatoes sprout above the soil, we will keep adding soil until just the tips of the green is showing, until we fill the bucket with soil.  Every time we add another layer of soil it creates more "root" for the potatoes to grow off of.  I hear homegrown potatoes taste so much better than what you buy in the store.  We are all looking forward to the fall.  Except for Gavin.  Who doesn't like potatoes. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raised Bed Garden 2014

Haven't blogged in quite a while, and while I am training for the Green Bay Marathon next month, I've been too busy to blog about it.  But with Spring here and the weather warming up, I am getting excited about planting time.  Last year I had a garden at the bottom of the hill in the back of the house.  It was my first real garden and I was really excited about it.

 It ended up flooding and was under water for three days.  After that, it was mosquito hell, and I didn't even want to think about going down to harvest the tomatoes off the only two plants that survived.

 So this year I moved the garden up to the yard, and decided to do raised beds.  This is mostly because the part of the yard that gets enough sun has too many roots to till up.  And I really like the idea of growing up a trellis, so I'm going to grow the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas vertically. 

Mike and I bought all the materials last Saturday afternoon, but I ended up doing a lot of the calculations at the store because the beds are a little higher than I originally planned for.  I was hoping to get 1x8" cedar planks, but they only had 1x6."  I know the book says you only need a 6" deep bed, but I wanted to grow some carrots and I wanted them to be able to go a little deeper than just 6."  I decided on the spot to buy enough lumber to make the beds 12" tall (well actually, only about 11.5" tall because a 1x6 is really more like 1x5.75) and so I recalculated the soil requirements and ended up coming up short.  I should have calculated for 12".  I will need one more bag of vermiculite to finish off the second bed.

We also bought weed barrier, 1x2" cedar lengths for a trellis, 4 x 3 cubic feet bales of peat moss, 16 bags of compost (a little extra in there for my herb garden), and 8 bags of vermiculite. 

Mike hauled all his tools and saw horses and miter saw and extension cords outside so we could work out where the garden was going.  We cut the boards to length, screwed them together with 4x4 cedar posts for the corners, and made our raised beds.


So then we wanted to put the weed barrier down and it turns out I didn't have enough.  I bought a 3x50' roll, but then I ended up deciding to put a little more distance between the beds and the fence, so we needed more.  But I was able to at least get enough under the beds so we could get the soil in.

The hardest part of this whole project was mixing the soil.  By this time we were getting a little tired, but I really wanted to get the soil in.  The formula is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss.  So we mixed about 3 square feet at a time.  It was very heavy, even though the components are fairly lightweight, at least compared to regular garden dirt.  We mixed them together on a tarp, by rolling them around together like a cement mixer, and then hauled them into the garden.  It took about four mixed loads per bed, and that's when I discovered I was one bag short of the vermiculite.  So we'll have to go back and finish that one off this weekend.

 After we got the soil in, we put a vertical fence on the North end of the North bed and planted peas.  That's all we can really plant right now.  Our average date of last frost is May 20.  We'll plant everything else late May. 

I'm planning on planting these like the Square Foot Garden, each square foot gets something, and a certain number of plants per square foot.  I'm still planning it out, but its mostly done, so I'm pretty excited to get some plants in there. 

Today Mackenzie had to leave school early because she was sick, so I took advantage of the extra time and put the rest of the weed barrier down and stapled it.

The next step, of course, is to get the fence around the outside and put wood chips down over the weed barrier.  I'm hoping to get some from the LaGrange compost site.  Hopefully they have some.  They have in the past, and then I don't have to buy any.